SCEGGS DARLINGHURST

Last year we sent an email to all Years K-12 parents relating to the Netflix series “13 reasons why”. It is not a programme recommended for younger viewers but we did learn instances of Primary students accessing the series via siblings, friends and even their own mobile devices. The series addresses the serious and difficult themes of suicide, sexual assault and bullying. There was an extra-ordinary amount of commentary about the series in the media ranging from experts in mental health to opinion pieces, some more helpful than others. The second season of “13 reasons why” was released on Netflix last Friday afternoon and we thought it would be helpful to revisit some resource material for parents (some newly written for this season) and encourage an informed and aware conversation with your daughters rather than an alarmed or reactive one. Netflix has made greater efforts to give warnings of graphic content and themes at the beginning of certain episodes, as well as directing viewers to resources for seeking help at the end of each episode. We hope that you find this next communication about the second season helpful.

I have just finished watching the second season and understand its appeal as a fictional piece of viewing on relevant topics that affect young people. The acting is excellent, the story moves at a cracking pace, the soundtrack is great, and the script is easy and fluid. The second season adds substance abuse and an undercurrent of (potential) gun violence to the themes of suicide, sexual assault and bullying. And yet despite the colour and the contemporary appeal, my reservations from the first season still loom large. Again, I felt a discomfort with the omnipresence of the protagonist who takes her own life in the first season: I felt it crudely under-represented the finality of suicide. My other primary concern was the lack of help seeking on the part of young people in the programme and the absence of trusted adults.

As an educator, I think the saddest part of the show is that it grossly underestimates young people. It repeatedly paints them as weak, lacking any good judgement, and at times morally bankrupt. For younger viewers, it paints a bleak and scary picture of being a teen. Pulling out mobile phones and recording people’s most humiliating moment with no empathy appears to be the norm. Every girl (every woman, in fact) suffers at the hands of boys (or men). There is monumental suffering built through ongoing secrets and lies. With little exception, the characters are largely bystanders to either abhorrent or criminal behaviour, hardly any of which is reported to trusted adults. There is limited display of fortitude or leadership. The magnification and concentration of all the hard parts of life is not unique to this show. Some might even say it is the key ingredient of a good drama, however unrealistic it might be.

School is pitched as the enemy. There is an inescapable and destructive school culture of labelling that minimises the human spirit and dooms every individual to failure; everyone is ‘tagged’ and sentenced to fulfil their role, as determined by others. There is no personal agency and very little encouragement thereof. The impenetrable barrier between generations could have some young people convinced that adults either don't care or have no idea. There is no nurturing, no care, no attention to or celebration of who people are, either as individuals or as a community. Almost all relationships are devoid of trust.

We want to advise parents that some young people might be potentially impacted or triggered by this show. It is not a programme about destigmatising mental health. There is in fact very limited treatment of mental health which comes a distant second to the serious and heartbreaking themes of suicide, sexual assault, bullying, substance abuse and gun violence.

In my time at SCEGGS I have had endless conversations with young people who have displayed strength through expressing their own vulnerability, strength through facing their own fears, strength when seeking the help of experts and adults who care, strength amid a trying adversity, strength in sharing their worries about a friend, and strength in being true to themselves. I hope we never underestimate young people.

Several resources have been sent to schools to help educators and parents have conversations about the themes, even if not the show itself.

Season One
https://mhfa.com.au/sites/default/files/13-reasons-why-plot-talking-points.pdf
https://mhfa.com.au/sites/default/files/13-reasons-why-plot-summary.pdf

Season Two
https://13reasonswhy.info/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/AUSTRALIA-PARENTS-13RY-Headspace.pdf
https://headspace.org.au/news/the-launch-of-13-reasons-why-season-2/

Please do not hesitate to be in touch if you are worried about anything at all, or if you would like to discuss the programme. We will be sure to be in conversation with girls about their impressions and thoughts of the programme as the need arises, and more importantly continue to keep conversations about mental health transparent and supportive at all times.

It might be helpful to keep these numbers on your fridge at home and discuss the support networks available to young people:


Sophie Kearns
Director of Pastoral Care

 

 

180517 SCEGGSTV

Understanding eating disorders can be difficult for families – they present multifaceted challenges. An eating disorder is a serious mental health illness. It can have significant physical and emotional effects. The beginning of adolescence and late teens are peak periods for young people to experience their first symptoms. Young people with eating disorders can have reductions in cognitive function that directly affects decision making, as well as significant emotional changes, and otherwise routine activities can become disrupted.

We hope that there are some helpful resources and information for you to think about in this month’s edition of SchoolTV, and we always welcome your feedback. If any of this material causes you worry or if you have any concerns about your daughter, please be in touch.

Here is the link to this month's edition http://sceggs.nsw.schooltv.me/newsletter/eating-disorders.

Sophie Kearns
Director of Pastoral Care

 

 

Empathy
I have met plenty of teenagers (and younger girls too) who appear to have a really well developed sense of empathy. They are very sensitive to the way others are feeling and instinctively seem to be able to respond in exactly the right manner. They are astute when it comes to noticing when something isn’t right with someone and have a genuine deep compassion and understanding for the complexities of life. They can see things from others’ points of view and really put themselves in others’ shoes.

But for most adolescents, this is a skill which develops later. It often takes time, maturity and a great deal of explicit teaching of the skills necessary for real empathy. Those parts of the brain which help with empathic understanding typically develop in girls from around 13 onwards. And for many girls, explicit coaching to help them see things from another point of view is required. Some teenagers need help to see important things in life beside themselves, and need training and assistance to help them have the skills to say the right thing at the right time – it does not always come naturally.

So firstly, do not despair if your daughter is not at all empathic! It could feel that she doesn’t care about anyone but herself - she might not seem to care about others nor understand their feelings and needs; she might not want to engage in anything that doesn’t directly benefit herself; and she may seem to say the wrong thing (or nothing at all) at times when compassion, sympathy and understanding are generally called for. Or it might just be that she needs some help to know how to interpret feelings, and how to express hers sensitively and with confidence. What an important life skill it is for parents to help their daughter develop....

I would like to encourage all parents (and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other significant adults in children’s lives), to really understand and practise the art of conversation. Conversation is a two-way process. Without conversation, you have a hard time building strong relationships and understanding others. Now, you, as an adult, know so much more than your daughter about every aspect of life! But resist the temptation to always give her the benefit of your wisdom and knowledge! Empathy, understanding, caring for the other are fundamental parts of quality conversations. Deep listening, taking the time to be really present when you are talking to your daughter, and wanting to understand what she thinks, what she likes, what she is feeling, is critical. There is a reason that God gave you two ears and only one mouth! Give your daughter the time to talk and express her thoughts and ideas, even if it takes a long time for her to articulate her opinions and concerns.

Here are some tips to help you help your daughter develop greater understanding of relationships and people. Nothing you can do can develop the medial prefrontal cortex or the limbic region of the brain more quickly than it would otherwise develop! But there are some things which you can do to help your daughter develop a greater sense of empathy in the long-term:

1. Model empathy! The best teaching is by example. So, show empathy yourself. In particular, show empathy to your daughter. Discuss what emotions you notice she is experiencing, and demonstrate that you really care about how she might be feeling. Ask her questions about her feelings and emotions, and talk about how you are feeling too. Listen to her when she talks about how she is feeling. And don’t interrupt and interject with what you think she is trying to say. Let her struggle a little with the words. Be comfortable with the silences. Show you really care about what she is trying to say and let her take her own time to do it.
2. Genuinely encourage her to share and delight in the success and joy of others. There is some research to suggest that how we respond the successes of our friends and loved ones is actually a greater indicator of our capacity for productive, empathic relationships than how we respond in tough times. So start with celebrating other’s successes by always acknowledging, congratulating and duly complimenting them... Show how important and natural it is for you to be excited, pleased or impressed by the success of others.
3. Ask questions to help her to think about the feelings of others, and help her with possible answers if she is stuck! There are so many different situations where this can be used. You can ask questions about how a character in a book or a movie or video might feel. “I wonder how Voldemort might have felt when he tried to kill Harry Potter as a baby?” Try to choose questions which your daughter might relate to, and also choose a range of questions which will elicit a range of emotions. There are also many real-life situations where you can ask similar questions. “I wonder how Grandpa felt when you gave him that special present you made him?” “I wonder how your friend might have felt when she read those nasty comments online?” You can discuss how various people might feel as she comes in contact with them – a new student at school, a person who has been bullied, a person who has gained a special award for some achievement, a person who hasn’t yet established some good friends at school. Demonstrate whenever you can that you can celebrate and feel joy in someone else’s success, and also “feel their pain” when they might be hurting.
4. If your daughter needs it, help her to think about what she might say in some difficult conversations which require sensitivity and finesse. For example, your daughter might need to apologise to someone for something she said or posted online. Alternatively, she might need to tell her teacher something she did wrong. Or school might have organised a mediation session with someone she has had a fight with. Or she might need to talk to someone who has lost a grandparent, or who has a serious illness... She might want to join a new friendship group and needs some skills in forming new friendships. All these situations require a level of sensitivity and empathy if they are to go as smoothly as possible.

So persevere! Your daughter might not yet have a well-developed empathy and finessed people skills. Helping your daughter grow to be a really empathic, understanding and compassionate adult is a long journey. But through every interaction, every communication, you provide her with additional opportunities to help her grow and develop.

Jenny Allum
Head of School

 

 

130329 SchoolTV

In the last decade, children's participation in physical activity and exercise has been in decline. Research shows that regular physical activity and exercise leads to changes in the brain. It improves cognitive function, elevates mood, enhances learning and improves academic outcomes. Playing sport helps children develop fundamental movement skills and positively impacts on their confidence, self-esteem and ability to develop social skills. Parents play an important role in helping children establish habits that will benefit them in the long-term. In this digital age, children are using computers and mobile devices, for learning, as well as for relaxation and recreation purposes. Many argue that this sedentary behaviour is having a detrimental effect on today's youth. The key is finding the balance.

In this edition of SchoolTV, parents will discover practical advice about the benefits of regular physical activity and exercise, as well as tips on how to get their children motivated and moving more. We hope you take time to reflect on the information offered in this month's edition and we always welcome your feedback. If any of this material causes you worry or if you have any concerns about your daughter, please be in touch.

Here is the link to this month's edition http://sceggs.nsw.schooltv.me/newsletter/physical-activity-and-exercise.


Sophie Kearns
Director of Pastoral Care

 

 

Sport teaches us a lot about life – it is no accident that there are so many sporting analogies in our culture, so many sayings, quotations and truisms used to help understand how to get on in life.

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do” - Pelé

“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” - Muhammad Ali

“Champions keep playing until they get it right” - Billie Jean King.

So many men and women of sport say the same thing – it is the effort you put in to something which is most important.

I think this applies just as much to academic work at school too.

Of course the quotes above come from amazingly successful people. We are not all going to be as successful as Pelé, Muhammad Ali or Billie Jean King! We can’t all get over 90% in tests, or gain entry into the top universities or colleges. But we can try to do as well as we can at school work, to give ourselves the best possible opportunities for a post-school life, and to be well-educated, thoughtful and contributing adults. Therefore, it is really important that parents praise effort, to recognise that success rarely comes without effort. It is better to say: “I noticed that you put a lot of work into that assignment – well done!” or, “I am really proud of the fact that you started that work early, so it wasn’t a last minute rush”. Or, if they do get a good mark or comment on some work from school: “You see what you can do if you really apply yourself with commitment?”

I want to recommend a book to you – a book called Bounce. It is written by Matthew Syed who was a one-time British Table Tennis champion. His thesis is that the only way you rise to the top is through intense and prolonged practice. For example, he notes that Mozart had likely racked up over 3,500 hours of practice at the piano by the age of 6! Of course Mozart was incredibly talented, but he wasn’t a musician with special God-given powers that enabled him to circumvent practice and effort; rather he was somebody who embodied the rigours of practice. Mozart had talent, but that was not enough. Einstein said: Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. That’s not to say that Einstein and Mozart were not geniuses. Just that they also worked incredibly hard!

No one thinks that academic work, the extending of skills and knowledge should be easy. If it were easy, if you could already do it, what would be the point of doing it? You go to school to learn hard things, to learn things you have to work hard to master. And it is good to enjoy that intellectual challenge - to strive and fail, and fail, and fail again, and then experience the real joy of getting it, of finally being able to do it!

A young friend of mine used to proudly say "I can easily do that....", when she had finally learnt how to use a key in the door, or how to tie her shoelaces, or remember her phone number for the first time after a long struggle. Of course she didn't mean it was easy - she meant that she knew that it was actually really hard, but that she was proud of the fact that she now felt confident in that ability - that she could do it each time.

I want to put that feeling in the context of academic work. We need, as a society, to encourage high levels of intellectual rigour. We should value academic pursuits - to tell students that it is OK to attempt hard work. We need to encourage all students to understand that academic work at school is challenging, and that is good. There are things (a great many things, indeed) which Google can answer, but you don't really learn anything that way. You learn by puzzling over, by grappling with things deeply. The joy of mastering something which has taken real time and effort is unsurpassed.

If a young person says quickly "I can't do that....", then they will definitely be right. You will not be able to do it if you start with that attitude. We want our young people to say "I'll have a go....!" And to strive and work hard, again and again.... You never know, in the end, they too might be able to say: "I can easily do that...."! All of us need to encourage academic resilience in our young people, so that they are NOT put off by a hard HSC Paper, or the difficulty of learning French verbs, or the complexity of sophisticated scientific ideas.

I worry that there has been an increase, over the 30 years that I have been a teacher, in girls' fear of getting things wrong in tests and assignments, an aversion to taking risks in their learning, in wanting a formula instead of grappling themselves, in worrying more about the answer than the process of getting there. I want our young people of today to understand that you often learn more by getting things wrong. It's about the doing, not the answer at the end. It's about the intellect, not someone else's generic recipe.

I spoke earlier of the importance of the struggle of academic work. As a teacher, I certainly know that there are times when it's good to help your child with his or her school work. Giving them some encouragement, a hint about which way to proceed, to show them something they can’t yet do is good!

But it is important to be judicious about this. If you do so much that you take away that struggle, you deprive your child of the journey of discovery, of learning, of growing. What safer place in life is there to fail than at school? There’s a marvellous book called I Can Jump Puddles by Alan Marshall. He contracted polio when he was a child and then there was no treatment available to help him. As a result his doctor operated to correct tensions developing in the tendons of his legs which were leading to curvature of his spine and as a result he was confined to crutches and wheelchairs for the rest of his life.

He lived in Noorat in Victoria and would go on “hunting expeditions” with his best friend Joe; Joe, able-bodied and he on crutches, looking for rabbits and hares. One thing he particularly appreciated about Joe, was that he always waited for him, never trying to assist or carry him. Joe would not rush ahead to search for the prey when they saw some tell-tale sign, but would walk beside him so that they could see what was there together. He wrote that Joe ‘never robbed me of the pleasure of discovery”. You should try to allow your daughters that joy in as many endeavours as possible. The struggle is an essential and profound element of learning. Don’t tell them everything. Let them find out for themselves!

If you help too much, the following happens:

  • Their teacher doesn’t know what your daughter doesn’t know, and so can’t help them. They are working on inaccurate information.
  • Your daughter doesn’t learn much about the academic work. If it isn’t their own work, if they didn’t have to struggle, then won’t really learn. (You might learn something, but they won’t).
  • Your daughter doesn’t learn the importance about honesty and integrity. If she turns in a paper that isn’t all her own work, then that is plagiarism.
  • Your daughter gets the message that you think she can’t do it. That you have to do it for her. It is better to communicate to her that you want it to be her own work – even if it is less good, but the journey of learning is a long one and that the effort and actually attempting it for oneself is the most important, not the final product.

So, by all means encourage, suggest some ways forward, listen to what she is finding difficult and help a little. But don’t take away that struggle, that independence of learning. Through the journey of failure, through the act of perseverance and determination, of “try, try, try again...” may well come understanding and mastery.

Jenny Allum
Head of School

 

 

What is your favourite tip or guideline about screen time in your family?
Thank you to all the parents who submitted a screen time tip last week – we had a fantastic response and have many great words of wisdom from lots of different families across the school. So a big thank you to you all!

The tips covered all sorts of different areas about managing screen time and included ideas about weeknight TV, phones in bedrooms, family dinners, managing Snapchat streaks, Netflix in the bathroom... and much, much more! In the main, these tips are being used with children from Year 3-10.

So here are your Top 7 tips for managing screen time with 8-16 year olds:

1. Designate ‘tech free’ time in your family:
Many families designate specific ‘tech free’ time within their family – in different ways, and at different times, but all suggest that it changes the nature of the conversation in the house and calms things down.

  • No screen Sunday - for parents too! House much calmer as a result.
  • No phones at the dinner table – ever!
  • The past year I have “looked after” the children’s phones whilst on holidays and whilst they groan and moan initially, they acknowledge that it has been liberating and relaxing not being tethered to them and they have read books, played cards and all of those other things.
  • Lid down day - Wednesday and/or Sunday.

2. Be a good role model yourself:
Our kids learn so much from the example we set for them by our own behaviour.

  • Make sure you model good screen time behaviours: no phones at the table, whilst driving or a passenger in a car or when spending time with friends. I was surprised how guilty I was of this. The kids call me on this also.
  • We have to lead by example!
  • A shared family charging station that we ALL have to use at the end of each evening.

3. Make sure the rules are clear and consistent:
As children get older, a number of parents commented on the importance of talking with the whole family about what the rules are and then making sure you stick to them!

  • Important to pre-agree screen time rules well in advance.
  • Discuss what “screen time” is with your children and negotiate it with them rather than dictating.
  • Particularly when students are involved in a computer game, they can lose track of time. Give them a warning 10 minutes before screen time is ending.
  • Set up and agree all the rules for usage, monitoring of accounts, where and when screen time is allowed.
  • We switch off our WiFi modem at a certain time in the evening - always advertised in advance and the actual time would often change depending on what is happening on the day.

4. Sleep is absolutely pivotal
We are hearing more and more about the importance of sleep in maintaining our health and wellbeing in the long term. As I heard a teacher say last week, “Do you want to do better at school, be a better learner and feel better in yourself by doing absolutely nothing at all? Then go to sleep!” So how do we help kids do this?

  • At least an hour of ‘screen free time’ before bedtime on week nights. We are doing this too and it makes such a difference!
  • No screens/phones in rooms overnight.
  • Have one place in the living area to charge phones and request that phones are in the charging area from a certain time (eg 7.00pm or 9.00pm). This ensures phones are out of the bedroom for study and sleep times. If they need to use the phone they must come to the charging area (eg in the living room).
  • All devices (phones, school tablets etc - including the parents' devices) must be charged in a central spot downstairs overnight. We aim to have the phones there from dinner time onwards.

5. Could you replace screen time with other activities?
There were a number of suggestions about the importance of other family activities, especially with younger children.

  • Making Family time more interesting than Screen Time and ensuring during this time there are no screens available to anyone, including parents.
  • Friday night board games and pizza is a great way to get the family together and screens off. It might be old fashioned ... but it works.
  • Engaging young children in exercise and other hobbies on the weekend really helps take their mind off playing computer games and watching TV!

6. Can technology help you?
Some families use different third party parental controls, different WiFi connections and different phone plans to assist in managing access to the internet at home.

  • Have a separate, ‘kids only’ Wifi on a timer for which only you know the password.
  • We make sure our children are on prepaid phone plans so data is limited each month. Once they have used it, there is no more allowed.
  • We use third party parental controls to help maintain the rules – there are lots of great products out there. If the girls want extra wifi time they have to ask/text us at work etc and we can add from our phones.
  • Telco's can give you an itemised bill. I don’t think spying and excess checking up is always a good first step, but knowing I can do this helps our girls self-regulate when they know that any SMS they might sneak and send after "phones down" time will show up when the next bill arrives.

7. Don’t be afraid to set limits ... and then follow through!
Every family is different, so it is important to find the ways that work best for you to set the limits ... but then you have to follow through.

  • The girls do lose their phones completely after school or for a day or two if they break the rules. The most common infraction is having the phone in their room at night or spending even longer than usual in the bathroom (and that is really saying something!!) ... as they are on Netflix!!
  • Non-negotiable clearly defined and agreed rules for when screen time is allowed are a must! And you must agree on the consequences upfront when these are broken too.
  • A few months ago Snapchat was becoming a real problem in our house (particularly the "streaking"). To encourage the children in our house to reduce their time on Snapchat we instigated a rule that if there are more than 30 "snaps/streaks" sent or received in a 24 hour period otherwise, they lost use of their phone for the next 24 hour period. When first implemented there were numerous days on which the phones were confiscated. We now rarely have issues.

Thank you again to all the families who submitted a screen time tip last week! And if you missed the opportunity to participate this time, perhaps it is a question you could ask the parents of your daughter’s friends sometime... what screen time tips do they have that might work well for you too?

You will also see in this edition of Behind the Green Gate a very informative article from our Director of ICT, Ken Emeleus, on how to monitor your child's Internet usage.

Holly Gyton
Deputy Head of School

 

 

“In partnership with the school, it is essential that our parents are empowered with the knowledge and skills to help them navigate their daughters’ educational and social growth.”

Our Path Ahead (SCEGGS Strategic Plan)

For our parents, that knowledge can come from many different places – articles, family members, SCEGGS staff, news, blogs, friends... the list goes on! There is a lot of wisdom amongst the parents within the SCEGGS community too! And from time to time, we’d like to use In This Together to share tips and advice submitted by your fellow SCEGGS parents that might help you navigate each of your daughter’s growth in the years ahead.

So to start us off, our first question is about the screen time guidelines you use at home with your children. We’d love you to submit your favourite tip or guideline about screen time in your family using this quick survey link:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/InThisTogether1

What sort of tip could you share? Perhaps thinking about questions like these might get you started:

  • How much TV do you allow on a weeknight?
  • Which screens do you allow in bedrooms?
  • Do you collect or turn off all screens an hour before bedtime?
  • Which screens do you allow in your children's bedrooms and when?

... or some other aspect of screen time all together! We’d love to hear from everyone who has a tip to share. This short survey will close on Monday 26 February at midday... and we will share a sample of your feedback in Behind the Green Gate next week.

Holly Gyton
Deputy Head of School

 

 


Resilience...

If we want our young people to grow up to be strong, capable, self-assured, resilient young women, we have to help them take responsibility for themselves, to learn to sort out difficulties for themselves, to cope with set-backs themselves. Because of course life is fraught with setbacks, thwarted dreams, times when things don’t go your way, when you have to stand on your own two feet and be strong in the face of adversity. (Of course life is full of joys and happiness too).

Resilience is the ability to cope with adversity. And you can’t develop the ability to cope with adversity if you don’t ever experience adversity! We want our young people to be resilient – resilient learners, resilient team players, resilient people who can take life’s knocks in whatever form they are dealt them; to deal with life’s “curve balls” and rebound and adapt in the face of adversity.

I have this image in my mind from the sport of Curling. I don’t know much about it! But I have seen some manoeuvre where one or two players go ahead of the puck, rubbing the ice with their sticks to improve the ice ahead and smooth the progress of the puck so that it will go further. Some parents are like this! They want to make everything right for their daughters. They want to continually be there to smooth the path ahead, hovering around to make sure everything is good and happy.

If your daughter is upset – because she didn’t get the lead in the school play, or get selected in the sporting team they wanted to, or gain a school leadership position, or didn’t do as well as they wanted in a test or assignment, what are you going to do about it? Each one of these sorts of setbacks and disappointments are learning experiences, where you can help your daughter to cope with life’s complexities and develop the skills and resilience they need to cope with life’s pains and problems.

Helping your daughter to cope with life’s difficulties necessitates an optimistic approach, demonstrating confidence that your daughter can deal with these issues, an understanding that life is not always easy, that failure is a great way to learn life’s lessons. A calm, steady approach, with an ability to regulate emotions rather than ride the roller coaster of feelings is important. When coping with life’s complexities, resilient people are the ones who believe that they are able to cope, and know that they can “soldier on” and find a solution, a “work-around”, or deal with failure or disappointment. When we help young people cultivate an approach to life that views obstacles as a critical part of success, we help them develop resilience.

When I speak to parents who are upset by or concerned about a decision the school has taken, often they say: “but she really wanted this one”. That isn’t a reason to be given it! Life is filled with disappointments, many of them seriously harder to bear than not getting selected as Class Captain, even if you really wanted that opportunity!

I remember one parent who was concerned that her daughter had missed out on a lead part in the play – there were only a handful places available and her daughter was not selected, and she was so upset. There were other more suitable girls who had been chosen through the audition process. The parent went on to describe the other opportunities that her daughter had missed out on that year. It was as though the parent felt that her daughter should be “given her turn”. I think we fall into the “everyone gets a prize” mentality from infant birthday parties. In pass-the-parcel, we make sure that every person at the party gets a prize. Why? Life isn’t like that!

I think, too, of conversations with parents of girls who have missed out on being elected Prefect. Sometimes the girl is absolutely devastated and the parents want to talk about it and sometimes express their anger and discontent. One parent said to me: “I don’t know what more she could have done for the school – she has always tried her hardest, she has contributed to this long list of school activities, she is always a good friend, her teachers say what a delight she is to teach....”. And of course that is all true.

Parents have all sorts of complaints about what happens in schools! The same people always get the prizes at the Speech Night. The Sports coaches selected wrongly when their daughter was not chosen for the top team. There should be enough places in each and every activity so that everyone who wants something can get it, so that their daughter is not upset. But, in my experience, such decisions are never based on personal likes or dislikes; on malicious intent or deliberate vindictive behaviour towards a girl; nor based on casual, uncaring or sloppy decisions.

Now in these examples above, I am not overly concerned about the fact that the girl was upset. It is reasonable for someone to be upset when they have really wanted something, particularly if they have really worked hard at it and done all they could! But I do worry about the parents of the girl, who wish to complain, to take away that hurt by “fixing things” and getting (by hook or by crook) whatever it was for their daughter.

In the best examples I see, a parent firstly just acknowledges the hurt and pain the girl is suffering. Over time, the parent might encourage the girl to approach the relevant teacher and ask about the decision – to make sure she understands any reasons behind decisions taken or processes applied. But the questions the parents encourage their daughter to ask are things like: “What can I do differently next time?”, or “What other options do I have to pursue my interest in this area?”, or “What can I learn from this experience?”.

The bottom line is that you usually don’t get all you want in life. You don’t get the job you wanted, or the promotion you applied for. But your ability to negotiate the workplace in a mature, thoughtful and developmental way will help you in the long-run, and those sorts of skills can be best practised from an early age at school.


Jenny Allum
Head of School

 

 

We have been putting great efforts into strengthening our support of parenting in this modern world and have been very happy with the positive responses from this In This Together section of the newsletter over the last year. This year, we are really pleased to launch SchoolTV via this week’s edition of Behind the Green Gate. SchoolTV is an online resource designed specifically for parents to inform and assist you in dealing with matters relating to young people today. This digital wellbeing platform offers a comprehensive starting place to answer many of the questions that you might face regarding the challenges of parenting and the challenges of growing up in today’s society.

180208 SchoolTVFeaturing one of Australia’s leading adolescent psychologists, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg as a main contributor, the resource also draws on the expertise of other leaders in youth wellbeing including Professor Ian Hickie (Brain & Mind Centre), Professor Pat McGorry (Orygen), Dr Elizabeth Scott (Headspace), Ms Susan McLean (Cyber Safety Solutions) and Ms Lesley Podesta (Alannah & Madeline Foundation), among others.

Over the year, we will roll out editions of SchoolTV featuring in depth exploration on a topic in question, such as Managing Year 12, Coping with Anxiety, Cybersafety and Healthy Body Image, to name just a few. SchoolTV aggregates relevant, fact-based content from leading specialists and organisations into a single, easy to understand stream. With each edition, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg introduces the topic in video format. Following this, there is a video quiz on the topic, video Q&A from leading specialists, fact-sheets, articles and a series of resources including suggested apps, books, websites, additional videos plus many other topic based resources.

Today we proudly launch the resource, including the first edition for 2018, School Transitions. We hope that this resource is widely accessed and a helpful go-to for many parents, as it will be for teachers. We would be very keen to know if you have any questions or concerns and would welcome any feedback about this resource. Please do not hesitate to be in touch with a staff member at SCEGGS directly – Form or Class teacher; Stage or Year Co-ordinator; school counsellor, or indeed any of us at SCEGGS! And please do contact me at any time if I can help – I am always happy to chat! There is also an email link accessible on the SchoolTV website to send feedback directly to us.

Please click here to make the most of, and enjoy, this excellent resource: http://sceggs.nsw.schooltv.me.


Sophie Kearns
Director of Pastoral Care, and The Pastoral Team

 

 

If you have a spare 20 minutes in the car or train, or wherever you listen to your podcasts, Ms Holly Gyton recommends this one, by a Stanford University Dean who is also a parent!

https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/09/12/stepping-back-from-overparenting-a-stanford-deans-perspective/.

Jenny Allum
Head of School

 

 

Dear Parents

I have seen many changes in society in the 22 years I have been Head of SCEGGS. One of the biggest, most pervasive, has been the invention of the Smartphone. In the following article, Clinical Psychologist, Danielle Einstein, explores some of the consequences of our increasing dependence on a smartphone, and describes how this can lead to increased anxiety in adults and children. It gives some interesting context and background which I think will be helpful for all parents. You might learn something for yourself or your partner too!

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-25/smartphone-dealing-with-uncertainty-and-anxiety-in-digital-age/9085194.

Jenny Allum
Head of School

 

 

SCEGGS is a member of the Alliance of Girls Schools, a national organisation of girls’ schools. They do some great research themselves, and also promote interesting articles, ideas and references for parents.

The article below is from one of their recent magazines:

https://www.agsa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/AGSA_mag_vol55_RR_web.pdf

I thought it was a great synopsis of an excellent book.

I hope you find it interesting and informative!

Jenny Allum
Head of School

 

 

The Importance of Building Independence in Children
We all want children to experience safe, happy and carefree childhoods. But life isn’t always easy, and by helping children develop some independence they will be better prepared to cope with all the ups and downs they each will experience. While it is natural for parents to want to protect their children and do things for them, to make sure that all their experiences are positive, you can’t always be there! It is important that children learn that they can be responsible and that they can do things for themselves.

‘But she’s so young, and it’s better/easier/faster if I do it!’, I hear you say. While sometimes it can be trying for parents, if children never have to do anything for themselves they will always expect others to do it for them. Parents may think they are helping their child, but this can encourage children to develop a learned helplessness – particularly if it goes on after a child is capable of doing things for themselves.

Learning to be independent begins at home. Even the youngest child, a pre-schooler, can be given some responsibilities – putting their toys away or setting the table, for example. Progressively, as a child gets older, they can be given tasks with greater responsibility – tidying their rooms or caring for a pet are just some ideas.

Involving children in family decision making discussions is also an important step in developing independence, teaching them that they do have a voice, that their ideas are listened to. This can be as simple as discussions about what to buy grandma for her birthday, or planning weekend family activities. Through conversation and the sharing of ideas, in the security of a family environment, children learn that their ideas and opinions are valued.

From a young age children can also begin to learn that they can work out some things for themselves. When your child comes home with a problem, don’t try and solve it for them straight away; have a conversation, talk about options, ask them what they think they could do. Of course give them advice, but include their ideas too. Through these discussions they will gradually develop strategies to problem solve on their own.

Children are so precious, and childhood is so short. We know and understand the great heartache parents feel when they know their child is struggling, even in the slightest way. But giving children some responsibilities, teaching them to think for themselves and to try to solve their own problems, will hold them in very good stead now and in the years ahead. And you will always be there to guide and support them along the way.

Elizabeth Cumming
Head of Primary School

 

 

Sometimes you just have to laugh...

A humorous look at parenting...

From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=przuq9TDUFE

Jenny Allum
Head of School

 

 

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

“Even when a seismic event - a war, a technological leap, a free concert in the mud - plays an outsize role in shaping a group of young people, no single factor ever defines a generation. Parenting styles continue to change, as do school curricula and culture, and these things matter. But the twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives - and making them seriously unhappy.”

I follow many educators on Twitter and there was a flurry of activity on the weekend with this particular article in the Atlantic doing the rounds. Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? - The Atlantic. It is written by Dr Jean M. Twenge, author of Generation Me and iGen, and Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University. It obviously had great resonance for many people, and I think it has great merit, both as a well-written piece and as a conversation starter in schools and homes.

Perhaps the particular appeal for teachers is that we have a wide perspective of societal and generational trends in behaviour and their effects, if any, over time. This article makes a challenging and mildly perturbing commentary on the impact that smartphones have had on young people. The data from our 2016 Wellbeing survey supports the claims that Dr Twenge makes about smartphones contributing directly to sleep disturbance. Already a topical area, we will undoubtedly learn more in coming years about the direct relationship between sleep and mental health. We hope this piece is a good stimulus for conversation – it has certainly given us more to think about and discuss at school.

Sophie Kearns
Director of Pastoral Care

 

 

I have had lots of great feedback about this new section of our Newsletter. In particular, I am getting lots of suggestions from parents of possible resources, articles and ideas which could be included. (This is something I am so appreciative of and very grateful for!)

So I pass on three good books others have recommended to me.

The first is Being 14 by Madonna King.
The blurb says:
Is your daughter 14? Are you struggling to know what's going on inside her head? Are you worried? This is the book that can help you understand how she's feeling, what she's thinking and what you need to do to help her navigate her tricky teens to become a fabulous woman...

The second is A Good Enough Parent, by Bruno Bettleheim.
The blurb says:
In this book, the pre-eminent child psychologist of our time gives us the results of his lifelong effort to determine what is most crucial in successful child-rearing. His purpose is not to give parents preset rules for raising their children, but rather to show them how to develop their own insights so that they will understand their own and their children's behavior in different situations and how to cope with it. Above all, he warns, parents must not indulge their impulse to try to create the child they would like to have, but should instead help each child fully develop into the person he or she would like to be.

The third is Untangled by Lisa Damour.
The person recommending this said: “What I liked most about this book was that it was so very practical, down-to-earth and really helped me (and my daughter!). It’s also one of what seems like a minority of books on teenagers that is really positive.”

I would welcome other ideas of books, articles or topics you would like one of us to write about!

Jenny Allum
Head of School

 

 

Wrestling with our (children’s) limitations
I recently read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and I was particularly struck by her brief chapter on defending our weaknesses, and that in doing so we get to keep them. It made me think of the conversations we have at school with students whose worries impose limitations on their own capacity, day in and day out, which can result in the girls underestimating their source of creativity, originality, and uniqueness. In these cases, the fear voice within takes the driver’s seat and becomes a dominant energy. We try to help young people recognise their deeper and more supportive source of wisdom, the more internal quieter voice that knows better and actually desires to burst forth and reveal itself fully.

And I hold that in contrast to the conversations we have with students or their parents who seem motivated by another fear – that of being imperfect. It can be quite painful watching young people become crippled by this destructive force, made worse if not all the sensible adults in the child’s life keep it in check and refuse to feed it. The ultimate irony of the excessive perfectionistic experience is that it is in itself a chink, a limitation.

One regular example of destructive perfectionistic thinking can be seen when it comes to perceptions of ‘being in trouble’. In the secondary school, our discipline system includes Penalty Points for minor misdemeanours and then Detentions either for an accrual of these Penalty Points or for something more significant. Most students readily accept a Penalty Point when they have breached a school expectation and recognise when it is justified. Sometimes a student reacts in a manner entirely disproportionate to the minor offence and penalty, fearing that it might impact her future and her potential results, awards or leadership possibilities. And sometimes this overreaction and misconception are supported by a parent.

A bit like the ultimate irony of the perfectionistic experience being unhelpful, so too is the overbearing defence of our children’s limitations, minor mistakes, and flaws. In these overly reactive circumstances, more is revealed of the child’s or parent’s fears and as educators we come to regret the lack of acceptance that sometimes we get things wrong. Coping with even the smallest failures and being able to put their consequences into perspective is the mark of a resilient child.

There are times when we need to draw on the courage to fight our self-imposed limitations, indeed. And there are times when we should accept them. I guess wisdom is knowing the difference.

Sophie Kearns
Director of Pastoral Care

 

 

As parents and teachers, we all want the best for our kids. Have a look at this great website from the Australian Government about Respect - to help stop violence against women. The website has some videos for parents and educators as well as some great resources. In particular, there is a good document to help parents have meaningful conversations with their children (girls and boys) about good relationships, based on mutual respect.

I really recommend this website. I encourage all of you, whatever age your daughter is, to look at the resources and think about how you are going to help your daughter in this particular aspect of their life. You want her to have rich experiences, healthy relationships and opportunities to shine. You want her to respect others and respect herself. You want her to be able to keep herself safe...

It is an excellent website.

https://www.respect.gov.au/

Jenny Allum
Head of School

 

 

The 10 Parenting Principles

When Paul Dillon (national expert on alcohol and other drug education) addressed the Year 9 parents at SCEGGS in February this year, he referenced Dr Laurence Steinberg (http://www.laurencesteinberg.com/) who is a Professor of Psychology at Temple University and expert on adolescence. He has written several books on adolescent development and a book for parents called The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting. In this book Dr Laurence Steinberg writes: “Most parents do a pretty good job of raising kids, but truly effective parenting means not just relying on natural instincts but also on knowing what works and why.” Retweeted by Dr Laurence Steinberg himself on 19/02/2017 (via We Are Play Lab), here is a summary of the principles!

1. What You Do Matters: regardless of our kids genetic heritage, what we do as parents or educators matters tremendously, because it is our influence that affects how those genes are expressed. Being a mindful parent, admitting and learning from our mistakes is extremely important as our kids learn best by watching us.
2. You Cannot Be Too Loving: let’s bust that myth right away, we cannot spoil a kid with too much love or expressing affection. One of the most important things we can do as parents is to respond to our kids’ emotional needs and provide a safe haven for them to explore and learn.
3. Be Involved in Your Child’s Life: sounds like the obvious thing to do but we all know how challenging it may be. Quality time is not about the what, it is about the how. Our kids will value what they believe we value so involving ourselves in their education and schooling is key. Our job is to help them establish good working habits and develop a sense of mastery and self-sufficiency.
4. Adapt Your Parenting to Fit Your Child: treating siblings differently totally makes sense as every child is truly different! The trick to best support our kids is to recognise when they are going through major developmental transitions (patience!) and accepting our changing role as parents as they grow up.
5. Establish Rules and Set Limits: structure makes our kids feel safe. Avoid turning disputes into a winner-loser scenario, instead figure out a way where both parties feel satisfied (be firm but fair). As parents, we basically have four options when settling a dispute: assert parental authority, give in, compromise or (our preferred option) solve the problem jointly. “Joint problem solving avoids having winners and losers, helps your child to feel more grown up, teaches something about the benefits of co-operation, and makes it less likely that the issue will come up again in the future, because when it works, it leads to a more lasting solution.”
6. Help Foster Your Child’s Independence: which does not equal disobedience but creating a sane psychological space. The fact that our kids are challenging us is a good sign. So if what they are trying to do is not dangerous, unhealthy, illegal or immoral, permit them to be autonomous.
7. Be Consistent: “The easiest way to help a child learn how to behave appropriately is to make her good behaviour a habit that she doesn’t even have to think about. You do this by being consistent from day to day in your parenting.”
8. Avoid Harsh Discipline: There is a “right” way to punish if necessary and it has to do with very clear steps: an identification of the specific act that was wrong, a statement describing the impact of the misbehaviour, a suggestion for one or more alternatives to the undesirable behaviour, a clear statement of what the punishment is going to be and a statement of your expectation that your child will do better the next time. And yes, physical punishment or being verbally abusive is a no-go at any given time and age.
9. Explain Your Rules and Decisions: hearing our kid’s point of view is as important as being clear about our expectations and admitting our mistakes. A good approach to reasoning with our kids, by age: kids under 6, the explanation needs to be reasonable; kids between 6 and 11, our explanation needs to be reasonable and logical, kids older than 11, our explanation needs to be reasonable, logical, and consistent with other things we have said and done.
10. Treat Your Child With Respect: there is nothing more important for the development of our kids than parents who love, guide and respect them. “Your relationship with your child is the foundation for her relationships with others. If you treat your child with compassion, kindness, and respect, she will grow up to be a concerned, caring, and considerate person.”


Jenny Allum
Head of School

 

 

Following up last week’s section about sleep and the course we recommended for parents about teenagers and sleep, I thought you might be interested in this TED talk about sleep – entitled Why do we sleep? The link is here:

https://www.ted.com/talks/russell_foster_why_do_we_sleep.

I also thought that you might be interested in this sleep factsheet from Orygen Youth Help:

pdfhttp://oyh.org.au/sites/oyh.org.au/files/factsheets/oyh_sleep_factsheet.pdf

Jenny Allum
Head of School

 

 

Have you got a teenager who is not sleeping well....? You might be interested in this course....

Treating Sleep Deprived Adolescents – run by Woolcock Institute of Medical Research.

Presented by Adolescent Sleep Physician, Dr Chris Seton and Adolescent Sleep Psychologist, Dr Amanda Gamble from the Woolcock Institute. This seminar will teach you all you need to know about adolescent sleep, as well as showing you how to detect problems and implement practical assistance.

When: 5.30pm-9.00pm on Thursday 8 June 2017
Where: Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Level 5, Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW 2037
For who: Parents, teachers, counsellors, psychologists and others involved in high school education

For more information, and to enrol: https://sleepyteens2017.eventbrite.com.au

Jenny Allum
Head of School

 

 

I thought you might be interested to know of a new book by Steve Biddulph – a psychologist, parent advisor, and educator. He has written a number of interesting books and articles, and speaks regularly on radio and in conferences etc. His new book is called: “10 Things Girls Need Most”.

I thought a really interesting, informative and challenging podcast was an interview he gave on ABC Radio. The link to the podcast is here:

Parenting educator Steve Biddulph focuses on teen girls for his new book - Afternoons - ABC Radio

You might even like to buy the book! It is hard-hitting and challenging, and you probably won’t agree with all of it. But it is a great conversation starter!
As a tempter (or a spoiler!), the summary version is


THE 10 THINGS GIRLS NEED MOST, ACCORDING TO STEVE BIDDULPH

1. To be loved and secure
2. To have time to be a child and a chance to be wild
3. To know how to make good friends
4. To find her spark in life
5. To have the love and respect of a dad (or a dad substitute)
6. To have a backbone
7. To be part of the women’s movement
8. To have a happy sexuality
9. To enjoy the support of aunties, wise women and experience a rite of passage to womanhood
10. Spirit

Let me know what you liked, and what you disagreed with!

Best wishes

Jenny Allum
Head of School

 

 

I know that many parents will have read the article in the Good Weekend, a few weekends ago, about teenage girls and sleep. I was particularly interested in this article because of our own research, conducted last year, which noted that half of all of our students from Years 4-12 say that they don’t feel refreshed when they wake in the morning. Around 40% of secondary school girls say that their sleep is disrupted by devices at least some of the time during the night.

Here is a link to the article in case you missed it:

http://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/by/Madonna-King-gqspcs

Sleep is so important for growing bodies and minds. It is important to help every young person know that they will do better at school work if they have a good night’s sleep. They will also more likely flourish as people – strong, resilient and emotionally healthy!


Jenny Allum
Head of School

 

 

Welcome to a new section of Behind the Green Gate. Each week, we will try to bring you some information which will be helpful to parents – research about girls and their development, parenting tips, information about families, society, technology, well-being, health..... We would love to hear about things you would like more of too! So please do drop me a line (JennyAllum@sceggs.nsw.edu.au).

I thought this was a great first read for all parents. The bottom line is “Hang in there!”

http://gretchenschmelzer.com/blog-1/2015/6/23/parent-corner-the-letter-your-teenager-cant-write-you

Best wishes to you all.


Jenny Allum
Head of School

 

 

StartPrev123NextEnd
Page 3 of 3